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Old 01-05-2009, 07:23 PM   #1
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Default No. 4 Chargers at No. 2 Steelers By Vic Carucci

Defenses take center stage in AFC Divisional Playoffs
Vic Carucci
http://www.nfl.com/superbowl/story?i...s&confirm=true

No. 4 Chargers at No. 2 Steelers, Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET

The Steelers beat the Chargers 11-10 on Nov. 16 at Pittsburgh. What made the score a bit of a surprise is that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for 308 yards but no touchdowns, and Willie Parker ran for 115 yards but never reached the end zone.

The health of two key players on both sides will get plenty of attention this week.

LaDainian Tomlinson's groin injury limited his play against the Colts on Saturday, but it opened the door for his exceptionally quick and talented backup, Darren Sproles, to show his stuff. Sproles' outside speed was surprisingly effective against the Colts' defense, which is designed to handle quicker backs, but the Steelers have much more talented athletes and should be able to make it harder for Sproles to break the long runs he had against Indy.

Roethlisberger's health will be one of the biggest stories heading into the game. He's expected to play but didn't practice last week after suffering a nasty concussion in the Steelers' regular-season finale against the Browns. If Big Ben is healthy, he's capable of managing the game well, even if he doesn't throw any touchdown passes, which was the essence of his performance when the teams previously met.

Regardless of Roethlisberger's health, the Steelers will look to establish a fairly strong running game, with Parker leading the way. The Chargers did a pretty decent job in shutting down the run in the regular season (102.6 yards per game), and on Saturday, the Colts managed just 64 yards on the ground against them.

The Steelers' offensive line, which has struggled in pass protection all season, could have issues trying to stop the Chargers' blitzing defense. Of course, Hines Ward and Heath Miller do a nice job of finding holes in coverage when the blitz is coming.

An extra week of rest figures to give the Steelers an advantage because the Chargers were forced into overtime against the Colts and have to travel cross-country. The Chargers were 1-3 this season when traveling to the Eastern time zone.


How the remaining AFC teams' defenses stack up
Team Overall (YPG) Pass (YPG) Rush (YPG)
Pittsburgh No. 1 (237.2) No. 1 (156.9) No. 2 (80.2)
Baltimore No. 2 (261.1) No. 2 (179.7) No. 3 (81.4)
Tennessee No. 7 (293.6) No. 9 (199.8) No. 6 (93.9)
San Diego No. 25 (349.9) No. 31 (247.4) No. 11 (102.6)

Matchups to watch

Roethlisberger vs. the Chargers' front seven: Although Roethlisberger is expected to play, he could wind up making an early exit if the Chargers are able to deliver hard hits on him. And, because of his poor protection, Big Ben has been taking a lot of hard hits all season. Look for the Steelers to try to keep the ball on the ground as much as possible to minimize unfavorable down-and-distance situations.

Philip Rivers vs. the Steelers' defense: As the Chargers' quarterback demonstrated with his two interceptions in the teams' previous meeting, he has issues when being pressured and when facing the Steelers' complicated zone-blitzing scheme. Rivers will have to spend a great deal of time this week studying the many nuances of the Steelers' defense. Rivers must look for his opportunities to exploit seams that tight end Antonio Gates will consistently find, as he did against the Colts. If Tomlinson isn't healthy, Rivers also will need a big performance from Sproles as both a runner and a receiver.

Chargers punter Mike Scifres vs. Steelers' special teams: In San Diego's wild-card victory over Indianapolis, the rest of the country got to see what the Chargers have known all along -- they have a tremendous weapon in Scifres. His ultra-strong leg and incredible hang time allowed him to consistently pin the Colts deep in their own territory, giving the Chargers favorable field position throughout the game. Although the Steelers had a 92-yard drive to beat the Ravens to clinch the AFC North, they aren't a team that can make a habit of successfully negotiating such marathon marches. Scifres' leg literally led the Chargers to one playoff victory. Can it happen twice?
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Old 01-05-2009, 07:35 PM   #2
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Default Re: No. 4 Chargers at No. 2 Steelers By Vic Carucci

Ben's injury may be a strategic blessing.

If the Steelers can commit to the run game and get it rolling they can work the play-action. I would love to see some more I-form.

With our defense, I imagine we will not get into a situation where we don't have to abandon the run early.
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Old 01-05-2009, 08:00 PM   #3
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Default Re: No. 4 Chargers at No. 2 Steelers By Vic Carucci

you can pretty much throw every match up out the window. the game is going to come down to how ben plays following his concussion. im really not worried about anything else.. special teams, defense, sproles, rivers.. none of that scares me except ben..
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Old 01-05-2009, 08:47 PM   #4
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Default Re: No. 4 Chargers at No. 2 Steelers By Vic Carucci

Quote:
Originally Posted by jjpro11 View Post
you can pretty much throw every match up out the window. the game is going to come down to how ben plays following his concussion. im really not worried about anything else.. special teams, defense, sproles, rivers.. none of that scares me except ben..
Exactly! It's amazing how Ben can look like Joe Montana in one game and Kordell Stewart in the next.

Ben will either win or lose this game for us.
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Old 01-05-2009, 10:07 PM   #5
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Default Re: No. 4 Chargers at No. 2 Steelers By Vic Carucci

100 % right its all on ben ever one remembers the raiders game
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Old 01-06-2009, 01:39 AM   #6
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Default Re: No. 4 Chargers at No. 2 Steelers By Vic Carucci

Anybody ready for Willie to bust down on his haters?

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Old 01-06-2009, 03:58 AM   #7
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Default Re: No. 4 Chargers at No. 2 Steelers By Vic Carucci

Good article. I didnt realize the Chargers had that good of a pass rush. Its defintely an area of concern with our O-Line
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Old 01-06-2009, 04:05 AM   #8
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Default Re: No. 4 Chargers at No. 2 Steelers By Vic Carucci

scifres had an amazing game and like vic said, single handedly won it for the chargers...

however i doubt he can have the game he did in pittsburgh with the weather being a factor...

if scifres does end up doing his thing and pinning us inside our own 10... i have doubts as to whether we'll be able to mount any sort of offensive threat...
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Old 01-06-2009, 08:17 AM   #9
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Default Re: No. 4 Chargers at No. 2 Steelers By Vic Carucci

And I guarantee that Rivers won't see the same defense he saw the last game. LeBeau will have something new for him in Sunday's game. And of course the other key to the game is Ben.
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Old 01-06-2009, 08:27 AM   #10
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Default Re: No. 4 Chargers at No. 2 Steelers By Vic Carucci

Pittsburgh got three rivers...

San Diego only need one :)
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